Khartoum, Sudan - South Sudanese and UN officials, non-governmental organizations and officials of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) met over three days in Juba on how to harness Diaspora engagement for the development of South Sudanese health sector.
An IOM press release, received here Friday by PANA, said the event provided a blueprint for implementing an IOM Development Fund project designed to enhance South Sudan’s human resources for health through strengthened engagement of health professionals in the Diaspora.
It also represented a first step towards developing a national Diaspora engagement strategy in South Sudan, a new country with some of the world’s worst health indicators.
“This is the first ever forum bringing together people from different government ministries to discuss issues of Diaspora engagement for the development of the country,” the release quoted Dr. Lul P. Riek, Director General of Planning, External Coordination and Research at the Ministry of Health, as saying.
According to Dr. Riek, “Diaspora participation is critical in South Sudan, particularly in building a sustainable health system.”
Participants included members of the newly-created Diaspora Engagement Steering Committee for South Sudan; officials from the Ministries of Health; Labour, Public Service and Human Resource Development; Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; Higher Education; the World Health Organization (WHO) and other key stakeholders.
The IOM said that decades of conflicts have led to the virtual collapse of the health system in South Sudan, adding that access to health care is available to less than 20 per cent of the population.
The country currently has approximately 1.5 doctors and 2 nurses/midwives for every 100,000 patients. The WHO recommendation is 250 health workers to every 100,000 people.
According to the Government of South Sudan and WHO, life expectancy in South Sudan is 42 years, or 26 years less than the global average of 68. The maternal mortality ratio is 2,054/100,000 live births – one of the worst in the world.
Similarly, the infant mortality rate is unacceptably high at 102/1,000 live births, and immunization coverage for preventable childhood diseases for children under one year of age is only 13.8 per cent.
It said that through the Diaspora engagement project, South Sudanese health professionals living in the Diaspora will be identified through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Directorate of Consular Services and Diaspora associations, and will be encouraged to register their professional qualifications on a web-based platform.
This information will then be used at a later stage to fill gaps in training and human resources in South Sudanese health institutions.